Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why do we need this project?Globally gas prices have sky-rocketed, and this has only been exacerbated by the crisis in Ukraine. Whilst the UK has been making leaps towards decarbonisation and reducing reliance on fossil fuels its energy system is still reliant on global gas supplies for electricity and heating. The UK needs to invest in renewable technology in order to reduce reliance on the volatile global gas markets.
With government forecasting placing solar as the cheapest source of new power for the coming years, investment in solar is going to play a key role in diversifying the UK’s energy supply. Steeple Renewables Project is perfectly placed to help kick-start the UK’s transition away from fossil fuels.
2. Why is grid accessibility so important?
In order to export power, a connection to the grid is required. Grid accessibility it especially important for solar projects as power generation fluctuates and although these proposals include some plans for some battery storage, on-site energy storage is not possible for all of the energy that will be produced.
The decommissioning of West Burton Power Station has unlocked an opportunity to utilise the existing grid infrastructure and grid capacity at West Burton Power Station. This will also help to reduce the impact of the solar project on the surrounding area, limiting the amount of new infrastructure that would otherwise be required to access the grid. Steeple Renewables Project has secured an agreement with National Grid to access the grid at this location.
The proximity of the proposal site to West Burton Power Station also offers a suitable location to develop the proposed Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) which can assist in balancing grid capacity during peaks of energy production.
3. Why solar?
In order for the UK to achieve net zero by 2050, it will need to quadruple its low carbon electricity generation. Solar is a great resource to assist in this transition, as it is a free and inexhaustible resource.
Solar energy enables electricity generation without reliance on imports and is not subject to sudden price fluctuations or the uncertainty of global markets. Large scale solar, alongside onshore and offshore wind is now the cheapest source of electricity generation and is an important part of the energy mix required if the UK is to meet net zero targets and fight climate change.
4. There are lots of solar projects being proposed in and around this area, why do we need them all?
There is now widespread recognition that the UK, and the rest of the world, is in a climate emergency. Renewable energy has a significant part to play in transitioning to net zero to halt the devastating effects of climate change. Solar has an important part to play in reducing emissions and keeping bills low.
The proposals for Steeple Renewables Project are being brought forward independently by RES. However, we are aware of a number of other renewables projects currently progressing through the planning process in close proximity to our proposed site.
As part of our assessments, we will review and consult on the cumulative effects and our inter-relationship of our project in combination with those nearby schemes to ensure that we take account of your views and that it is fully assessed in our application.
5. Does the use of arable land for solar farms reduce food security?
The Independent National Food Strategy Review, which looks at the entire food chain from field to fork, concluded that solar farms do not in any way present a risk to the UK’s food security.
According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, climate change could reduce the UK’s stock of high-grade agricultural land by nearly three-quarters by 2050. Because solar farms generate near zero-carbon electricity, they help address climate change. Therefore, the case could be made that solar farms have a role to play in helping to improve the UK’s food security.
6. Why are we losing all our farmland to solar?
RES understands that there are concerns regarding the loss of agricultural land locally and nationwide, however only 0.06% of land in the UK is currently taken up by solar and even if the UK had a 70GW solar output this would only take up 0.4% of land nationally.
Solar farms are specifically designed to be dual purpose and allow for the generation of clean electricity alongside agricultural purposes such as sheep grazing. Typically, a solar farm uses approximately just 5% of the total ground area of a site, meaning a significant proportion of land is left available for uses such as sheep grazing and habitat re-wilding.
7. How long do solar farms last?
Solar farms typically have a 40-year lifetime, once the solar farm has been decommissioned the land will be returned to its original use.
8. What happens to the solar farm at the end of its lifetime?
After the 40-year lifetime the solar farm will be decommissioned. The solar farm will be dismantled, and all the structures will be taken away. A large amount of the material will be recycled (PV panels, aluminium frames, steel piles and copper wiring). The land will be returned to its previous condition, onsite access tracks may be left in place depending on the landowners wishes.
9. Are solar panels recyclable?
Solar panels are made of a frame (typically aluminium), glass, crystalline silicon solar cells, and copper wiring, all of which can be extracted, separated, and recycled or reused.
There are organisations around the UK and Europe specialising in solar recycling, such as PV Cycle and the European Recycling Platform. They are working with solar developers to minimise electrical waste and recycle old panels in line with the Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations.
10. Is solar bad for the environment?
Ground-mounted solar panels can deliver major benefits to the environment, in addition to providing clean, green, affordable energy. They can improve local biodiversity by supporting new and existing plant and animal life and hosting a range of habitats including wildflower meadows, hedgerows, nectar-rich areas for pollinators, and woodland.
Well designed and well managed solar farms contribute to a range of eco-system services and support sustainable agriculture, regulate air quality, and reduce carbon emissions.
11. Why can’t the panels go on rooftops?
RES agrees that solar panels should be present on the rooftops of all new homes and industrial buildings. However, the reality is that rooftop solar is not enough by itself to meet the UK’s energy needs. To keep on track to net-zero by 2050, 70GW of solar will be required and there is simply not enough south facing rooftop space to accommodate this. There is significant potential for commercial and industrial rooftop solar systems but not enough to help deliver on net zero.
12. Will there be an impact from water running off panels? Will this create more flooding?
Solar panels are fixed to the ground by frames so water can easily flow underneath the panels. Solar panels can be placed in an area with up to one metre of flooding and thus this site is appropriate for solar installation. The Environmental Impact Assessment will assess any potential flood impact, not only for the overall site but for each land parcel. These assessments will be conducted by flood risk specialists and will include soakaway testing.
 UK, Solar Energy. SOLAR ENERGY UK BRIEFING, Everything Under the Sun, Facts About Solar Energy. London: Solar Trade Association, 2022.